A Rant About Addiction

by The Acolyte/Blaise Bienvenue

A known obnoxious drunk calls a person an “idiot” for dying of a drug overdose. All hypocrisy aside, this person has missed the point. Addiction is not a matter of intelligence, nor one of strength. Addiction either gets you, or it doesn’t. Once it gets you, you are fighting a battle that smarter and stronger people lose every day. There is always someone smarter and stronger than you, and there is always someone out there who is losing the final round in their battle with addiction. That’s the hard truth. That person could be strong, weak, ugly, bewitching, a moron, a genius. “There but for the grace of God go I” is a phrase in common use among recovering addicts for just that reason: no one is exempt. No one gets out due to some superiority. Those who get out do so because they saw, knew, and felt the right things at the right times during which they had the right amounts of strength and drive to take the right actions. Sound like a lot of things to get right at once? It is. Strength and intelligence can’t make them all happen at the same time and place.

I would like to think that addiction, while it is neither a matter of intelligence nor strength, is a matter of loftier traits such as sensitivity and empathy, but there are as many addicts who are callous and oblivious to the feelings of others as there are addicts who are stupid. There are as many who are not.

Addiction is not a matter of any of these things.

A man on probation goes to his court-mandated group session high as a kite and reeking of booze. People notice. It gets reported. He gets violated and goes back to jail, loses the job he was just lucky enough to get, loses visitation rights to his children (again). He knew what would happen if he got caught drinking or doing drugs. Did he get caught because he was stupid? Did he get caught because he was weak?

“I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart.” – Edgar Allen Poe

He got caught because something deep down inside drove him. Deep down inside, he wishes it hadn’t. It can’t be explained any better than that. If you don’t understand this, I’m afraid you never will. We don’t get sober to look down upon those who haven’t. We don’t get sober because of cops or because of our parents. We get sober to survive, and if we manage to do so, we are grateful for each precious breath we have saved, for each stimulus we savor due to senses no longer deadened, for each little thing we are now able to do–drive a car, hold a job, stand on line at a bank without feeling like a germ in a sterilized environment–that we couldn’t do before. If you quit for any of the former reasons, if you don’t feel this gratitude, if you see your sobriety as some individual achievement, your battle isn’t over.

Mine might not be.

I have no way of knowing.

None of us do.

– The Acolyte